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Places to Visit in Majuli River Island, Awesome Assam

Majuli is easily one of the most beautiful places we have travelled to in Assam, India. Majuli is an island, and for that matter, it is the largest inhabited freshwater river island in the world. The island is located on the river Brahmaputra in the north-eastern state of Assam in India. Imagine how big the expanse of Brahmaputra River is, that it is home to such a huge island. Apart from the unique experience of travelling and living on such an island, Majuli (formerly known as Majali) is replete with natural beauty, cultural experiences and interesting things to do. Read this complete travel guide to Majuli and how to plan a trip to the largest river island in the world.


With a total area of 875 square kilometres, Majuli Island extends for a length of about 80 kilometres and spans about 12-15 kilometres from north to south. However, since the island is merely 85 meters above the mean sea level, climate change, flash floods, and heavy erosion along the Brahmaputra River, have said to shrink Majuli by one-third of its initial size over the past few decades.


Majuli Island, Assam, houses a total of about 140 small and large villages and is home to about 1,60,000 people. Yes, it's that big! Due to this Majuli was declared a district and became the first island district of India. It has also been nominated to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You wouldn't feel like you are on an island unless you visit the periphery.

 

Table of Contents

 

Where is Majuli located and how is it an Island?

Majuli river island is located in the north east India in the state of Assam. The island is formed as Brahmaputra coming from North east branches out as a Kherkatia Xuti river. This offshooting river then joins another river coming from North named Subhasini river. Together they join Brahmaputra back. The point where Kherkatia Xuti branches out is eastern end of Majuli while the point where the Subhasini river joins Brahmaputra is the western end of Majuli.


Best time to visit Majuli river island

Like all the other tourist places in Assam, Majuli Island is blessed with a moderate climate. Though the weather is always pleasant, irrespective of the time of the year, October to March is considered the best time to visit Majuli Island. However, you should plan your visit to Majuli Island based on what you want to experience.


If you want to experience the festivities and the rich culture of Assam, the best time to visit Majuli Island is in November. The satras in Majuli celebrate the Raas Purnima on a big scale. There are dance and skit performances based on the life of Lord Krishna that you can witness. Another good time to soak in festivities is in April during Bihu – the harvesting festival.


If you want to see the greenery in all its glory, the months right after the monsoon from October onwards would be a great time to visit Majuli Island. However, you should know that rains bring their own set of challenges to this river island, with flooding of the Brahmaputra river every year and waterlogging woes in the low-lying areas. Even the ferries to Majuli stop operating when it rains heavily and when the river gets flooded.



How to reach Majuli river island?

Like any other island, Majuli Island can only be reached via a ferry from the mainland of Assam. The nearest big town on the mainland is Jorhat; so the best way to reach Majuli is to reach Jorhat. Majuli is about 20 kilometres far from Jorhat. Ferry services connect Majuli Island (Kamalabari Ghat) and Jorhat town (Nimati Ghat).


Note that one can also reach Majuli through north bank from places such as North Lakhimpur and Dhemaji. However this route is recommended only if you are already visiting these northern parts of Assam and would like to use Majuli as a pitstop while crossing Brahmaputra river. For most travellers, reaching Majuli via Jorhat would be ideal.


How to reach Jorhat?

Jorhat has a domestic airport that is connected with non-stop direct flights from Guwahati and Kolkata. So taking a connecting flight to Jorhat would be the quickest way to reach. If that's an expensive option for you, one of the options is to land in Guwahati. As Guwahati has an International airport and higher frequency of flights, connectivity and costs tend to be better.


Check flights to Guwahati or Jorhat


From Guwahati you can go to Jorhat by road or rail. You can choose to take a private taxi, shared taxi or buses (government and private) from Guwahati to Jorhat. From Guwahati, Jorhat is about 300 kilometres away by road. If you go by road, you can also cover Kaziranga National Park on the way. Rail connectivity is also good and you can find comfortable trains from Guwahati to Jorhat and back.


It's also possible to fly to Dibrugarh in east Assam (about 140 kilometers away from Jorhat) and then take a private taxi, bus, or shared jeep ride to Jorhat (that's what we did!). Another interesting option we discovered was direct private buses that ply from Guwahati to Majuli. These are usually overnight AC pushback private buses that start from Guwahati late in the evening and drop you in Majuli early in the morning.


How to reach Nimati Ghat from Jorhat Main Town?

The passenger + vehicle ferries for Majuli Island are available from Nimati Ghat. This ferry point is about 15 kilometers away from the main Jorhat town. From Jorhat, you can reach Nimati Ghat via a public bus or a shared jeep. Note that the ferries leave right on time, so reach the ferry point 10-15 minutes before departure. Also, back calculate the time required to reach Nimati Ghat from Jorhat main town. This is because the road conditions are not that great, and it easily takes 45 minutes to reach Nimati Ghat from the Jorhat bus stand.




How to reach Majuli island from Nimati Ghat in Jorhat?

We booked our ferry tickets online from the Inland Water Transport website that belongs to the Government of Assam. Based on availability, you can also book the ferry tickets from the ticket counter at the ferry point. There are two ferry points at Majuli Island – Kamalabari point (mid-south) and Afolamukh point (southeast).


Generally, tourists catch the ferry from Nimati Ghat to Kamalabari and vice-versa. Take the Nimati Ghat (Jorhat) to Afolamukh point (Majuli) ferry only if:

  • You have not booked a ticket online, and you find that all ferries for Kamalabari are full

  • You just missed the last ferry to Kamalabari

  • Your accommodation is closer to Afolamukh point, which is usually rare

The ferry tickets on the Inland Water Transport website open only a day before the journey. The first ferry leaves from Nimati Ghat in Jorhat to Kamalabari point in Majuli at 7:30 AM in summers and 8:30 AM in winters, and the last ferry leaves at 5 PM in summers and 4 PM in winters. A ferry is available almost every half an hour to one hour. So, if you miss one, you don't have to wait long for the next to arrive. However, ferry timings depend a lot on the weather conditions.


It takes about 1 hour for the ferry to sail in the Brahmaputra from Nimati Ghat in Jorhat to Kamalabari/ Afolamukh point in Majuli. The passenger seating is separated from the 2-wheeler/4-wheeler docking area on the ferry. The seats are more or less comfortable. If the river is calm, you will be allowed to stand near the railings to enjoy the views, but if it's not, you will have to remain seated at all times. It is mandatory to wear a life jacket while on the ferry but it is common to find people violating this rule.


Ferry Charges from Nimati Ghat (Jorhat) to Kamalabari/ Afolamukh point (Majuli)

Since the ferries are government funded, the charges are pretty subsidized.

Cost per passenger – INR 15

Cost per 2-wheeler – INR 30

Cost per 4-wheeler – INR 700



How to commute within Majuli?

There are options of availing private/shared taxi or auto rickshaw to roam around in Majuli. One can also rent bicycles from Garamur, one of the larger villages in Majuli. Many hotels and homestays also keep bicycles and sometimes scooters for rent. We did not prefer bicycles since Majuli is so huge. Going around on bicycles can be fun but it would have taken too much time and effort to reach different corners of the island. So our preferred way was to take a rented scooter from Jorhat itself. There are many two-wheeler rental companies around Jorhat bus stand. Renting a 2-wheeler from Jorhat is also a convenient option to reach Nimati ghat from Jorhat main town and reaching your hotel/homestay after you arrive at Kamalabari ghat in Majuli.


Places to visit and Things to do in Majuli river Island

Majuli Island has a fairytale-like, magical old-world charm. There aren't too many tourist places in Majuli, but there are several experiences to gather and things to do in Majuli. We planned to stay here for one night but ended up staying three. Why? Read on to know more. You would also find a easy to follow map at the end of the article which would help you reach all these suggested places.


1. Phenomenal Sunrise and Sunsets

The sunsets in Majuli are beyond magical. We happened to see three consecutive sunsets in Majuli, and they were amongst the most beautiful sunsets we have ever witnessed. We rode to different places each evening to catch the sight of the golden ball submerging into the still waters of Brahmaputra rivulets. Our favourite spot is the bridge near Luhit Ghat and the White sand beach.


Watching the sun set on the distant horizon as the fishermen sailed back home with their prized catch of the day, leaving behind their Chinese fishing net setup, was fascinating. As soon as the sun sets, the whole sky explodes in a beautiful phenomenon of varied colours within minutes. This was quickly followed by the land slowly getting covered in a thick layer of winter mist and the twinkle of bright stars showing up in the dark sky. If the sky is clear and you're lucky, you'll even spot the Milky Way!


Note: The sun sets really early (4 PM) during winter at Majuli Island. So, plan your day accordingly.


2. Centuries-Old Satras / Temples

If you want to experience the Assamese culture at its best, visit Majuli Island. About 22 Satras (Hindu Neo-Vaishnavite monasteries) in Majuli are devoted to the teachings of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna. Such Vaishnavite culture in Assam was introduced by the great saint Srimanta Sankara Deva in 16th century. Besides being monasteries, these satras also act as hubs for fine arts and crafts of the region. Satras are present in many parts of Assam but those in Majuli are famous due to higher concentration. For visitors who are unaware of the concept of satras, you can consider these temples and just follow what the locals are doing!


We paid a visit to the most notable satras of Majuli Island, namely

  • Auniati Satra – Biggest satra of Majuli having a huge worship place and an artifact museum

  • Kamalabari Satra – Specializes in boat making, literature, and classical studies;

  • Samaguri Satra – Is a center of mask making in Majuli

  • Dakhinpat Satra – Oldest of all satras of Majuli

Visiting the satras will give you an opportunity to unravel the history of Assamese traditions and culture.


3. Mask-Making Traditions

If you want to acquire some indigenous skills when visiting Majuli Island, plan on learning the art of mask making using natural elements from the expert artisans on the island. The art of mask-making has been passed down for generations in Majuli and forms an integral part of their culture. Samaguri/ Chamaguri Satra is the center of mask making on the island. Here, the artisans freely share their knowledge of this art form with interested visitors.


The full-face masks are inspired by Hindu mythology and are made of natural elements like bamboo, mud, cloth, jute, cane, and cow dung. These are then painted using natural colours. All masks are displayed in a small museum sort of a place near the Satra. Majuli residents use these masks in grand theatrical performances all across the world. The scenes enacted in the play bring Indian mythical heroes to life.


4. Pottery Village

The art and craft skills of artisans in Majuli do not end with mask making at the Samaguri satra. There's also a pottery village on the island where you can learn pottery. The earthen pots made at the Salmora village in Majuli are without the use of a potter's wheel. Brahmaputra river is known for a special type of clay soil named Kumar Mati by the Majuli residents. They collect this soil from the river bed and use it to make pots.


These pots are handmade without the use of a wheel. They are then ferried across the river to bigger villages in exchange for paddy. It's unbelievable how Majuli residents are still practicing the barter system effortlessly. We visited a potter's family home and observed an old lady making the pots and other vessels without using a potter's wheel. She was kind enough to teach us her craft, and one of us decided to dirty our hands to make a small diya. We will not lie; it's a difficult craft!


5. Tribal Handicraft Weaving

Apart from mask-making and pottery, Majuli residents are also skilled in traditional weaving. The Misings (an indigenous tribe in Assam) are excellent weavers. The tribal women learn the art of weaving using a conventional wooden machine from a very young age. All clothes that the Mising men and women wear are weaved in their very household. They spend a lot of time on their loin loom to produce high—quality hand-woven garments.


These garments made by Mising women have a traditional design intertwined with the tribe's cultural identity. Though we saw women weavers across most villages in Majuli, we visited a center of weaver's co-operative named Rengam, where we witnessed the making of the garments closely. Rengam is a weaving centre cum store run and managed by Mising women to support their community. They had a wide variety of traditional garment stock for sale.



6. Majuli Bridges

Majuli Island is a place that takes you on a rustic countryside voyage. The villages are surrounded by wetlands and rivulets that emerge from the Brahmaputra River. And on such small and large water bodies are unique bridges. Why do we call them unique? Well, while most are sturdy bridges, some are rickety wooden or bamboo bridges. In fact, the homestay that we stayed at was surrounded by a lake. It was an island in itself! So, every time we went in and out of the homestay, we had to walk on a bamboo pedestrian bridge that wobbled and creaked every time someone used it.


The villagers depend on such bridges for their everyday commute. While we cautiously approached such bridges, we saw the residents driving their vehicles at full speed and children crossing the bridge on a cycle. These bridges made for a perfect photo-op, especially during sunrise and sunset. The sheer spectacle of the water bodies, green paddy fields, floating water hyacinths, sailing countryside boats, and the play of colour in the sky made our hearts flutter with joy.


7. Yellow Mustard Fields

A sea of yellow greets those who visit Majuli in the winter season. The mustard crop has offered the island a ray of hope. The island residents live off farming and selling mustard. The beauty of the blooming bright golden yellow mustard seed flowers in vast fields left us stunned. Well, we can blame it all on the Yash Raj movies where the actors romanticize the yellow flowers of mustard fields, and we weren't able to stop ourselves from doing the same. But, oh, what a sight! The fields made a beautiful landscape with blue skies as the backdrop.


8. Migratory Birds

Large and small wetlands, lakes, rivers, fishes, and lots of greenery – Majuli Island has all the right essentials to attract birds. Come winter, and you will see the island transform into a safe haven for migratory birds. The sun rises to the sound of hundreds of birds and sets with the music of cymbals. The water bodies on the island support a variety of birds, fishes, reptiles, and aquatic plants.


We didn't have to travel to a specific area in camouflaged attire and wait for hours to spot the birds. In fact, the kingfishers, painted storks and cranes were easy to spot from where we lived in Majuli. We were also lucky to catch sight of pelicans, shelducks, geese, egrets, stork, moorhen, and waterhen. We think 2 types of people can stay for days and days in Majuli – nature lovers and birders.


9. Assamese Cuisine

A tribal Mising meal, home-cooked and served inside traditional bamboo cottages built on stilts by a tribal family – what's more authentic than this! Both the food and the experience at these tribal houses in Majuli are par excellence. So much that they run on reservations and you have to book your meal slot a day before. A traditional Assamese meal has at least 7-8 items, including soup, rice, curry, vegetables, greens, chutneys, local drink, sweet, and sometimes roti.


All the ingredients to prepare the meal are sourced locally from farms, and they taste absolutely delicious. We had the traditional Assamese thali several times during our stay at Majuli Island. The food is served with so much love and affection that it fills your heart (and stomach!). These experiences are must-try and should not be missed when staying at this river island.


10. Nothingness

Okay, so we aren't sure if this is even an official word, but this is what we call it. Nothingness – is a form of photographing nothing! A thick layer of fog hangs over the water bodies on Majuli Island every winter morning. As the sun rises, this fog act as a magician covering the surroundings into a white blanket with silhouetted subjects. You have to see it to understand it. Winter mornings in Majuli are a photographer's paradise. We always wanted to click these pictures and finally got an excellent chance to do it in Majuli.


A bonus tip

A bonus tip we would like to share is an activity that you might enjoy - Boating. You would invariably pass a concrete bridge named Doriya bridge in Majuli. This bridge is built over a water body. Do visit this lake early in mornings. You would find fishermen who would also be ready to give you a boat ride for a nominal amount. Imagine sitting on a country boat creating ripples as you move forward in a still and serene lake, fluttering of some birds and splash of water would be the only sound you hear, with morning sun giving you warmth on a winter morning. Do we need to say anything more?



Where to Stay in Majuli

You will not find high-end luxuries or swanky resorts in Majuli. We highly suggest you visit the island with fewer expectations in terms of stay and facilities. That said, Majuli is known for its homestays and bamboo cottages built on stilts. Many of them, but not all, come with attached bathrooms. Since we visited Majuli in winter (when it gets too cold), we were apprehensive about staying in bamboo cottages. We went to the river island with a plan that if we didn't find the stay comfortable, we would take the next ferry and return to Jorhat. But, we ended up staying in the bamboo cottage for 3 nights.


We stayed at Ygdrasill Bamboo Cottages, located in the most beautiful natural setting, surrounded by paddy fields and a lake. Our cottage was simple with just the basic facilities like an attached bathroom, a table, comfortable beds, and warm comforters. The walls and roof were bamboo-made, whereas the base and bathroom were cemented. The room opened to a porch facing the lake, where we spent a lot of time under the warmth of the sun. The blankets were thick; hence, we never felt too cold at night. They also had bonfires without any additional cost.


With the island gaining popularity, endless homestays are popping up, so you have many options to choose from. The rates are usually on the lower side unless you go during times like new year. We would recommend finding a place which is centrally located so that all the places described in this article are not too far.


Check hotels and homestays in Majuli

Data Connectivity in Majuli

Majuli has good phone connectivity in most of the villages. Data connectivity is also fine but can be patchy in few villages that lie in corners near the river. Note that most accommodations would not have Wi-Fi and you will have to manage with your mobile data. Most Indian network providers work well in major villages of Majuli.


Is Majuli river island worth visiting?

A 100% yes! With this. we complete our guide to Majuli Island. Here is a quick map guide which would help you navigate to all the places described in this article. Although we spent just a few days here, they were amongst the most memorable ones on our trip to Assam, and we are sure to return back. Sadly, this island will stop existing someday due to floods and soil erosion, and we hope that some steps are taken by the government to stop the rapid decline of this beautiful place.


Should you have any questions on how to get to Majuli, tourist places to visit, or where to stay, feel free to ask us in the comments section below. Pin below image to bookmark this article for reference in future.


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1 Comment


Guest
Feb 07, 2023

really want to go such places... it will be more interesting you shop hand made things during your trip,.Thanks for sharing

https://oneearthhotels.com/lawrancehh.aspx

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